10 Smells that Attract Cats

10 Smells that Attract Cats

A cat's sense of smell is 14 times better than a human's, so it's much more developed and allows them to perceive scents more intensely. This advantage is very useful to detect smells they worship easily but also to quickly identify those they hate.

If you are one of those people who keeps their home well scented, or commonly use essential oils for natural therapies, you will want to use those scents without disturbing your furry companion. In this AnimalWised article, we share 10 smells that attract cats. However, we already anticipate that not all smells cause the same effect in all cats. Some may have the opposite effect and we'll also explain why.


Nepeta cataria, better known as catnip, exerts an powerful narcotic effect on the animal. The active ingredient found in the composition of the plant, nepetalactona produces a psychoactive impact on cats that lead them to stimulate their mind and will encourage play. In this way, when a cat smells the aroma given off by catnip they tend to rub against it, lick it, eat it, show unusual behavior (such as jumping) and even hunt non-existent animals.

As it stimulates the mind of the animal and keeps them active, catnip is one of the most beneficial plants for them. However, while it is perhaps the smell that attracts cats the most, this is not the same for all cats. Some individuals do not respond to the plant in the same way. This is because the catnip response is genetic and some simply don't have the DNA to be able to appreciate it[1]. More information in our article about "the properties of catnip".


Considered as another of the smells cats like, the olive tree also produces a narcotic effect that alters a cat's behavior. This is because one of the most active components in the olive tree's leaves and trunk is a substance called oleuropein. As with catnip, when a cat perceives this smell, they tend to rub, lick, eat its leaves and show a more active attitude, action similar to the attitude they have during mating behavior.

Some cats have this attraction to just leaves, while others are attracted by all the parts the olive tree. This includes the olives themselves and products such as olive oil. Likewise, it has still not been scientifically proven that this smell exerts a relaxing effect on cats so make this claim cautiously, but it certainly does affect their central nervous system and makes them more active and playful.


Honeysuckle is part of the popular Bach flowers and, as such, they act on the cat's body exerting a powerful soothing and calming effect. In this way, we can say that the scent given off by this plant represents one of the scents that relaxes cats. So much so, that currently such plants are used in cats and other animals for therapeutic purposes, such as dealing with insomnia, stress or anxiety.

As with the previous plants, the composition of honeysuckle attracts cats and makes them want to rub themselves against the floor, licking it and eat it. But, beware! Honeysuckle berries are toxic for cats, so it is essential to keep them away and not to let them eat this plant, just sniff it and enjoy its aroma.


As with us humans, the aroma given off by lavender attracts cats by drawing them towards it to sniff and rub against it. However, its power of attraction is not as strong as the previous plant and it is possible that some cats will not display equal interest. However, to many this is a smell that cats hate. The reasons are little known. It is possible the reasons are genetic similar to catnip or it is simply personal preference on behalf of the cat.

If your furry companion is one of these cats that love this smell, you can use it to encourage a state of relaxation. Especially in cases of anxiety and a small degree of aggressiveness, it has been shown that the use of this natural therapy, along with other relaxing factors and the discovery of the cause of the problem, help the animal feel much calmer.

Cats do not like essential oils. As their sense of smell is so strong, any essential oil can be too overpowering. Don't be too heavy handed with smells which are supposed to be calming scents for cats. If used in a diffuser or heavily diluted, it might mimic the enjoyable scent of fresh lavender.

Lavender and cats does come with a stipulation, however. Eating the plant is toxic for the cat. It is important the cat is not able to ingest the flowers or leaves.


Thyme is not only part of the smells that attract cats, but is also one of the most beneficial for them. Thanks to its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, when prepared in the form of infusion or tea, it helps treat irritated and inflamed eyes in cats. This means it may help to relieve symptoms caused by conjunctivitis, for example, or a particular allergy.

On the other hand, its aroma acts as a natural relaxer and therefore promotes calmness in the cat. To do so, you should ideally use the essential oil of thyme or purchase this aromatic plant. However, as with lavender, thyme may not be as effective, since not all cats are attracted by its smell.

Mint, Basil and Peppermint

Occupying the next three spots are mint, basil, and Peppermint, all part of the same family as catnip (Lamiaceae). This is why it is not surprising that the aroma of these plants that are so often used for cooking are also one of the smells that cats love. Thus, cats that are attracted by them show the same symptoms described in the section dedicated to catnip, activation, and mental stimulation. Again, they are also quite strong smells, so overpowering them with it will be counterproductive.

Floral aromas

Many cats feel trapped by the intense smell of some flowers like roses, daisies and lilies. But if this is the case of your cat, you should know that some of them are highly toxic if they ingest them, such as the last two mentioned. In this way, it is better to keep cats away from the actual plant to avoid a possible intoxication.

Fruit scents

Fruits such as strawberries, peach or watermelon, emit very distinctive and intense aromas that capture the attention of cats quickly. In this sense, certain scents can certainly attract cats and encourage them to try the food. Many of them, even have multiple benefits for their body, such as antioxidant, cleansing and diuretic properties, as well as fiber and lots of vitamins. However, not all fruits are attractive to these animals, since citrus fruit emits a really unpleasant scent for them.

If you notice that your cat is attracted by the smell of some fruits, don't miss our article with the list of fruits most recommended for cats and start to offer them as a reward.

Can cats smell toxic plants?

There needs to be a clarification when it comes to knowing what smells cats like. The reason is that many people don't realise that just because a cat likes the smell, it doesn't mean they will eat it. For example, lavender is a smell which attracts some cats, but ingestion is toxic and can lead to poisoning. Just as our fruit scented shampoo might smell lovely, but we don't take a gulp, cats can enjoy smells without eating their source.

However, unlike humans, cats are not always able to be discerning with what they eat. In this way, we need to ensure they do not ingest anything harmful. Use a diffuser to waft the scent or don't use scent bags which can be easily opened by the cat. If your cat does ingest something toxic, look out for any adverse symptoms and take them to a veterinarian if poisoning is likely.

What is your cat's favorite smell?

After reviewing the list of smells that attract cats the most, tell us, what the smell your cat loves the most is! We are sure that you have identified that there is a certain plant, food or object that has an attracting effect on your furry friend and whenever they identify it they quickly run towards it with enthusiasm.

Likewise, and as we have already been indicating throughout the article, not all mentioned odors are welcome for all cats, since each animal is a world and has their own tastes. In this way, it is possible that a feline adores the smell that thyme gives but rejects lavender completely. In this regard, we encourage you to check the post to explain 10 smells that cats hate.

If you want to read similar articles to 10 Smells that Attract Cats, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.


1. Bol, S., et al. (2017). Responsiveness of Cats (Felidae) to Silver Vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and Catnip (Nepeta cataria). BMC Veterinary Research, 13(70).

  • Goznalez Garcia, A.; Herranz Vega, M. S.; Sanchez - Fortun Herrero, a. does catnip deserve that name? Revista Complutense de Ciencias Veterinarias. 2017.ISSN: 1988-2688.
  • Alabort Amundarain, S.; Pineda González, S.; Olivares Moreno, A.; Ibáñez Talegón, M. generalized anxiety and intraspecific aggression in cats. Revista Complutense de Ciencias Veterinarias. 2017 ISSN: 1988-2688.